The stopover has become the story! I know this because I was recently in Dubai filming hotels and activities for travellers – just like you and me – who are turning a stopover into a full-blown holiday.
Travellers no longer just pass through the world’s biggest airport; they’re milking their flight path for all it’s worth.
I’ve learned the hard way (hello, travelling on my own with two small children) the importance of breaking up a trip.
Whether I’m doing a driving holiday in Australia, or heading overseas, trust me about the power of a stopover.
On my own, I’m happy to bolt. With companions, letting a trip breathe is much more rewarding.
Don’t confuse a stopover with a layover. A stopover means spending at least one night in the city in which you change flights, en route to a final destination.
A layover is where you spend a few hours in the airport terminal, stretch your legs, have a coffee, try to keep your kids awake, then join the queue for the next leg.
Should you do a stopover?
Before you jump online and pick out your next stopover city, consider these questions:
- What are the stopover rules of the airfare?
- Do I need a visa to stopover? Do I have time to get one? What would this cost?
- What will the weather be like at the time of travel? Will the heat/humidity/cold be conducive to high-speed sightseeing?
- Can I do the city justice in one night? Am I comfortable missing extra days in my final destination?
Doing stopovers well
- Try to have some local currency. You can get this at the airports, but you never know when you’ll need to tip, make a local phone call (my mobile didn’t work), or have back up for a cab.
- Have an Uber account. To my surprise my local app works internationally. I felt safe and organised.
- Pre-organise your airport pickups. This was so stressful for me. I tried to sort everything from home, but life often throws us curve balls when travelling and when my phone didn’t work upon landing, my kids were crying from exhaustion, and I had no local currency, I had to resort to asking a nice local if I could borrow their mobile. It’s good to be prepared.
My favourite stopover cities and how to make the most out of them
From my own journeys, I’ve whittled down the list to just a few stopover cities that I’m sweet on, and they are Dubai, Bangkok and Los Angeles (LA).
Simply because Getaway has taken me there so many times, I’ve started to feel comfortable and safe settling into these foreign locations.
But there are many well worth a night or two, en route to Europe, the US, Asia, or elsewhere.
I can’t wait to take my children to Dubai. Their pools are above and beyond. But LA taught me a lesson this year when I had to bide my time while waiting to connect with US friends.
Being with children, we just went straight to Disneyland, and had no rules other than to sleep off our jet lag and have fun.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Australians are eligible for a free 30-day visitor visa-on-arrival.
August is the hottest month (average temperature of 36 degrees Celsius); the coldest is January (19 degrees Celsius).
The wettest month is February.
The UAE is a Muslim country so local laws reflect Islamic practices and beliefs. Take the time to familiarise yourself with these.
Must see and do:
- Downtown – where the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa stands.
- The Burj Al Arab Hotel.
- Bur Dubai/Deira – ‘the old city’ where the souks are.
- The Marina/JBR – on the water.
- Jumeirah – very long beachfront.
- LEGOLAND Dubai theme and water park for children 2 to 12 and their families.
- The desert, if you have time.
A visa exemption is available for up to 30 days if you arrive via the international airport.
April is the hottest month (average temperature 31 degrees Celsius (the coldest is December (26 degrees Celsius). The wettest month is September.
Must see and do:
According to Mr. Krit Tokrisna, from the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel:
- Be a real Bangkokian for a day and start early morning with a brisk walk around Lumphini Park to meditate and make merit, and then hit the streets for the best street food experience in the world.
- Go biking with Co Van Kesse’s Bangkok canal boat and bike tours, or a walk down just about any soi in Bangkok and pop into the first spa for a foot massage or traditional Thai massage.
- The upmarket Ratchaprasong shopping and entertainment district where Anantara Siam is located is home to Bangkok’s most colourful, high-street shopping and the famous Erawan Shrine. With its five-star hotels, fine dining and a staggering selection of retail therapy packed into one square mile, you are sure to discover, experience and enjoy some of Bangkok’s best offerings.
Los Angeles, California, USA
All Australians are eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation through cbp.gov/esta.
July is the hottest month (average temperature 22 degrees Celsius); the coldest is January (13 degrees Celsius). The wettest month is January.
Must see and do:
- Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.
- The Venice Beach Boardwalk.
- Santa Monica Beach, Aquarium and Pier.
To read about more of Catriona’s travel adventures, and listen to her podcasts, visitjourneystocome.com. For more French inspiration, download Catriona’s French podcast specials via Apple Podcasts.